She stood on the balcony of the seventeenth floor of the muggle hotel at half past midnight. She had kicked off her dragonhide sandals, and her bare feet gripped the railing where she had pulled herself up to lean over. Her low slung black cotton skirt hung to mid calf.
As the breeze from the Gulf of Mexico swept around the witch, her hair danced around her face and over her shoulders, which barely covered by the halter swimsuit top and black tunic she wore. She lifted her wand and softly cast a spell to dim the glow from the city lights, causing the constellations to become clear.
It had been a perfect week, hiding out in the small American Wizarding community on the Gulf Coast of Florida. An enterprising Ginny Malfoy had seen a muggle advertisement for a "timeshare". Combined with a foray into what she had called "air-rio-planets" for wizards and witches who couldn't apparate long distances, it had caused Ginny to seize the opportunity to gift the Snapes with a "research trip" for the company.
Even on the beach, in the middle of a Yankee summer, her beloved had never worn less than long black linen slacks and a long sleeve black cotton shirt. She had convinced him to tie back his hair occasionally, just as he had convinced her that size eight was in no way unattractively large for a bikini, no matter what Lavender and the rest of the female dunderheads said.
Not that he had sunbathed, mind you, but he did enjoying watching her do so on the lounge chairs on the balcony.
It had been a primarily academic week, which was perfect for the pair. They had walked along the beach at dawn and dusk, collecting rare seaweed samples for potion ingredients. Michael had sent them a book of his work on the properties of stones and sea creatures, and she was pleased that Severus accumulated an entire trunkful of research material to take home with them to Hogwarts, where they had to be in less than seventy-two hours.
Overall, the honeymooning couple had managed to avoid everyone, muggle or wizard, for the last seven days. Even the hotel elf kept out of sight, meals simply appearing on the table when requested.
Theirs was not a typical honeymoon, but then, they weren't a typical witch and wizard. Both had agreed to postpone any consummation of the marriage until the time was right, but the simple act of falling asleep and waking in each others arms had already strengthened the bond between their souls.
Late every night she had retreated outside, to smell the salt water and feel the warm wind as it rolled in like the breaking waves on the shore below. Tonight she could barely make out the lights from the huge commercial fishing boat that was sounding its horn in the distance as the door behind her slid open.
"You should come to bed…we have to cross-ocean apparate tomorrow morning," Severus said, coming behind her and running his fingers through her hair.
She smiled at the now familiar tingle as he bound her hair into a loose bun at the nape of her neck.
"I don't want to leave," she admitted, leaning back into her husband.
He pulled her in, resting his chin on her shoulder and staring out into the distance with her. Silence reigned for a few minutes, as she idly fiddled with the buttons at his wrists, rolling up his sleeves. She smiled into the Gulf as he didn't flinch. Her fingers found the now smooth skin on his forearm, and she lightly stroked from his elbow to his wrist.
"They are going to talk about us, when we return. Dissect our lives in even more detail than they have already," he said, breaking the silence in a conversational tone.
"Then we ignore them," she replied, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.
"How can you say that so easily," he sighed in her ear, sending a chill of pleasure down her spine. "It's one thing for me not to care what people say, it's another to create a family and bring it down into the pit of degradation with me."
"They have no right to speak about us, those wizards and witches who stood aside and let children fight their battles. Adults who refused to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those of us who fought for right, or that a war was even going on," her voice held evidence of an old anger and bitterness. "Michael and I use to speak of it, and he use to comfort me with a quote from a muggle leader. There were some nights I repeated it over and over to myself, when it was all my soul could do to hang on."
She turned around in his arms, and cupped his face in her hands, running her thumbs along his cheeks, silently thanking the Creator for giving her this man. He slid his arms down her body, his hands holding her waist, pressing her tightly to him. Taking a deep breath, she continued.
"It is not the critic who counts. It's not the man who points out where the grown man stumbles, or how the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who actually is in the arena, who strives violently, who errs and comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement; but who if he fails, fails while daring greatly, so his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
Her voice trailed off as his lips met hers.
And there in the darkness, with only the stars as witnesses, a scorned hero found his redemption.
And they lived happily Ever After: For Now...
A/N: The quote is one of my favorites from President Teddy Roosevelt. Quite touching and true, if Imay step up on a soapbox to say.
Ah, and the end comes. THANK YOU to all the readers who have stuck by me through this, especially the ones who encouraged me through reviews. If you would like to be notified when I begin the next installment of the You Make Me Light Trilogy, The Tolerance, please email me with your email address, and I'll shoot you a line when I start posting. It WILL be a while, most likely not until end of summer or fall. The final installment will be entitled The Journey.
Agapi has begun, and I would love for you to consider giving the Prologue (Three Fates) and Chapter One (Know-It-All) a chance. I suspect this one will end up being a little longer than The Redeemer, although, like most authors, I tend to end up underestimating my prose!
Thank you, most of all, to my darling beta, and the woman who has become one of my closest friends in the world. You ARE my light, Drakien!